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COVID-19: South Africa – Signs of improvement in Shipping

8 September 2020
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To stop the spread of COVID-19, South Africa has been on ‘lockdown’ since late March. The country moved to the second-least restrictive lockdown level on 17 August because the number of reported cases has been on a downward trend since a peak in July.

Cargo shipments

Throughout this time, South Africa’s commercial ports have remained open for transporting cargo. Services were initially reduced with priority given to essential goods, but are slowly returning to pre-COVID-19 levels. 

An analysis of data from the South African Revenue Service (SARS), South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) can be accessed here.

The analysis was prepared by Linernet who provide data management, market analysis and consultancy services to the shipping and logistics industry in Southern Africa.

Linernet comments that ‘Things have already bounced back quite well after the lockdowns – particularly our dry bulk and reefer container exports – but imports of manufactured goods and vehicles are still a long way from recovery. Hopefully the foreign revenue from exports will support a rebound in the domestic market to help stimulate imports; however there will be some pain in the short run.’

Crew changes

Foreign crew changes are now permitted at the ports of Cape Town and Durban only, subject to the requirements detailed in the amended Sea Port Directions of 20 August and SAMSA Marine Notice No 40 of 2020.

Signing-on crew may directly transit from the airport to board the vessel. Where a layover is necessary, the crew must be quarantined at the employer’s cost. Layovers will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances for signing-on and signing-off crew.

International passenger flights remain prohibited except for those flights authorised by the Minister of Transport, so the number of flights operating into and out of South Africa is limited.

Links to COVID-19 regulations, directions and notices that may impact ports, shipping, aviation and logistics are also available from our Bowmans website here.


While the South African High Court has remained open throughout lockdown, access has been restricted to varying degrees and some courts are operating with limited capacity.

With the latest lifting of restrictions, higher numbers of cases have been processed in general. Depending on the court, some court appearances remain restricted to online forums; whereas in other instances remote hearings are not permitted.

For an update of the position around crew changes, see our subsequent newsflash dated 11 September 2020.